1st day of the legislative session - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

By Fanna Haile-Sleassie

1st day of the legislative session


St. Paul, Minn. (KTTC-DT) --

And so it begins. The 2011 legislative session officially began at noon Tuesday, with many new faces, new leadership, and a new agenda. Lawmakers will face a slew of issues this year, but there are a few that rise to the top.

Talking to legislators, it was pretty clear what the top three agenda items will be this year: jobs, the budget, and reform, from the tax code to education.

The energy of the first day of the legislative session is unlike any other.

"I think any legislator looks forward to it."

There's a cooperative spirit in the air, mainly due to the freshman class that hope to make a change in state politics. And then the hard part hits, like deciding what to do about a looming $6.2 billion deficit. Or how to grow jobs and improve the state economy. Or even if reforming state systems could increase productivity.

"We carry the mantel of responsibility now with respect to the majority caucus. So we need to put forth the ideas that we can no longer, if you will, snip at the DFL," exclaims republican senator Dave Senjem.

Republicans want to see reform in the tax code, but not in a way taxes more, rather creates less regulations for businesses.

"As we think about reforms, we're thinking about reforms that are needed to in fact make business more attractive in Minnesota. And probably the first one out of Minnesota is this corporate income tax. We're third in the world with respect to how we tax corporations in Minnesota and we need to do something about that," continues Senjem.

As for the massive budget gap, Democrats want to raise taxes on the highest earning Minnesotans, coupled with large cuts in many sectors of the state.

"State government and the local governments, it's a very large, complex organization and we have to be constantly looking for efficiencies, especially in this economy. But that said, it can't be done with cuts alone, without really hurting our state," explains democrat representative Tina Liebling.

Then there's education. Both parties want to reform how education is taught and how much it costs. But they also have to find a way to repay the millions of withheld dollars to schools in order to balance the past two budgets.

"That was a major shift that the last legislative session did. It was about $1.9 billion. I don't know if we're going to be able to squeeze that out all this session to repay that," says republican senator Carla Nelson.

"Without some revenue in this state, there will be cuts. And education is one of the biggest expenditures for the state of Minnesota. So, we're in a very tough position," exclaims democrat representative Kim Norton.

A position in which Minnesotans can only hope their legislators will work well together.

Legislators will use these first couple of weeks to file bills, until Governor Mark Dayton gives his proposed agenda. And it's likely we won't see a solution to the state's top problems until close to the end of the session.

Powered by Frankly